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AAA Study Reveals That Truck Drivers Lacking Sleep Are as Dangerous as Drunk Drivers

It's no secret that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous. Every year, thousands of people are killed, and even more are injured by people who've had too much to drink and get behind the wheel. A recent trucking industry news report detailed a study by AAA that reveals that truck drivers that lack sleep are as dangerous as drunk drivers. While many people pride themselves on being able to function on less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night, they're posing a significant danger to themselves and others when they are sleep deprived. One segment of the population, long-haul truck drivers, are considered at risk for this behavior, due to their extreme schedules and tight deadlines.

Startling Statistics

It's long been recommended that people get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Even so, many people deny themselves this basic human need, and it can have devastating effects. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report reveals some startling statistics that everyone should take note of. Those that regularly get between six and seven hours of sleep have 1.3 times the crash risk of those that sleep seven hours or more. The risk increases incrementally when drivers get less sleep; 1.9 times the risk with five to six hours of sleep, 4.3 times the risk with four to five hours of sleep and a whopping 11.5 increase in risk for less than four hours of sleep.

Prevalence of Driving Tired

Not surprisingly, a huge number of people, roughly 97 percent, say that driving when extremely tired is a dangerous activity. They seem to understand that it is a threat to their, and other motorist's, safety. However, nearly a third of participants in the AAA study admit that they sometimes drive when they're sleep deprived. Truckers, who often drive late nights and early mornings are particularly susceptible to this phenomena. Natural sleep/wake rhythms are interrupted when drivers are forced to operate during these crucial hours of the day. What's more, reflexes and reaction times are diminished, just as they would be if you had consumed alcohol, meaning the driver is not as alert as a fully rested person.

Tips For Safer Driving

While it is sometimes impossible to avoid driving during the late night and early morning hours, there are some things that can be done to alleviate sleep deprivation and ensure safer driving. The most obvious of these is to get the recommended amount of sleep every day of between 7 and 9 hours. Turn off the television, put away the phone and rest and relax. Avoiding heavy meals and medications that cause drowsiness also has a major impact. Long-haul truckers, and others driving long distances, should stop, get out of the vehicle and get a little exercise every couple of hours, or 100 miles. Grab a bottle of water, take a walk and stretch. If you're still feeling tired, stop in a safe place and get some sleep.

While it's unlikely that truck drivers and others that travel extensively will reduce the number of miles, or hours they drive, it's imperative that they get adequate rest. Remember, most people who have accidents related to sleep have no outward signs or symptoms of being tired, until they fall asleep at the wheel. Even if you don't feel tired, you pose a real threat to yourself and those around you, so get some sleep before you get behind the wheel.